The Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania was established on 11 November 1918 (until then it had been named the Lithuanian Ministry of Finance, Communications, Trade and Industry) upon formation of the First Government of Lithuania led by Professor Augustinas Voldemaras. Martynas Yčas, a famous lawyer and politician, one of the founders of Lithuanian banking and industry, and a publicist and publisher, was the first minister of finance, communications, trade and industry of independent Lithuania. By1939, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets, nine more ministers had headed the Ministry: Jonas Vileišis, Ernestas Galvanauskas, Jonas Dobkevičius, Vytautas Petrulis, Petras Karvelis, Albinas Rimka, Juozas Tūbelis, Julius Judrišiūnas and Jonas Sutkus.
In 1919 the Chief Commission for accounting losses inflicted on Lithuania during the war was formed under the Ministry. The Ministry had a network of local offices, county tax inspectorates and customs offices; in addition, trade agents authorised by the Ministry worked in the regions. At that time the Ministry employed almost 100 staff.
Between 1921 and 1924 the Ministry underwent significant organisational changes related to the introduction of the national currency (the Litas) and development of the taxation system. In the period from 1924 to 1940, the Ministry‘s organisational structure included the Departments of Finance, Taxes and Trade, the State Insurance Agency, the State Savings Bank Board, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Credit Institutions and Cooperatives Inspectorate, the Chamber of Measures, Scales and Assaying, and the State Printing House. Furthermore, in 1927 the Flax, Tow and Linseed Inspectorate subordinate to the Minister was established as the State had a monopoly on flax trade at that time. Other institutions established under the Ministry included the State Lottery Office, the Price Management Office and the Commission on Railway Tariff Rates. Also included were the Financial Committee, the Minister‘s Council, the Currencies Board, counsellors, clerks for extraordinary affairs and a jurist, all subordinate to the Minister.
The Minister of Finance was responsible for public expenditure and revenues, and formulation of financial policy, and represented Lithuania abroad on the instruction of the Cabinet. In addition the minister concluded financial agreements, established currency exchange rates, and exercised supervision over production of money, rendering of loans, and terms of public credit and drafting of tax laws. The minister also approved permits to form companies, authorised regulations of credit institutions and companies, resolved issues related to the granting of permits, etc. In 1929, the Ministry of Finance had a staff of 352; in 1934 it had 398 employees on the payroll and 64 freely hired employees; the number of employees including staff at local offices totalled as many as 1,241.
In August 1940 the Republic of Lithuania ceased to exist as a state and was incorporated into the Soviet Union. The Ministry of Finance was reorganised into the People‘s Finance Commissariat of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic; its activities were stopped in 1941 by the German occupation. In1944, after the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania for the second time, activities of the Commissariat were renewed; after several years it was renamed the Ministry of Finance of the Lithuanian SSR. The independence and legal capacity of this institution — and the Lithuanian SSR as a whole — was merely formal.